Mordechai Vanunu: Who Is Israel’s Nuclear Whistleblower?

The Israeli whistleblower faces charges for violating terms of his parole by meeting with U.S. nationals and moving to a new apartment.


Who is Mordechai Vanunu?

Mordechai Vanunu, also known as John Crossman, is a former Israeli nuclear technician-turned-peace activist.

He worked at Dimona Reactor, an Israeli nuclear installation located in the Negev desert, now called the Negev Nuclear Research Center, from 1976 to 1985.

In 1986, he revealed overwhelming evidence of Israel’s nuclear program, including dozens of photographs, enabling nuclear experts to conclude that Israel had produced at least 100 nuclear warheads.

Vanunu took the photographs and traveled through Asia and Australia. A British newspaper, The Sunday Times, learned of his story and sent a reporter to Sydney to check it out. He was then flown out to England.

His  story was published on October 5, 1986, and gave the world its first authoritative confirmation that Israel had become a major nuclear weapons power.

Needless to say, Vanunu’s revelations upset quite a few bigwigs.

He was subsequently lured to Italy by a Mossad agent, where he was drugged and abducted by Israeli intelligence agents.

He was transported to Israel and ultimately convicted for treason and espionage in a trial that was held behind closed doors.

Vanunu was sentenced to 18 years in prison and released on April 21, 2004.

The imprisonment and solitary confinement failed to break him but it managed to turn him into a staunch supporter of Israel's nuclear disarmament and its dismantlement as a Jewish state. He also came out as a force to be reckoned with.

"You didn't succeed to break me, you didn't succeed to make me crazy," he said in a press conference right after his release. "We don't need a Jewish state. There needs to be a Palestinian state. Jews can, and have, lived anywhere, so a Jewish state is not necessary."

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Since his release, Vanunu has been living at St. George's Cathedral in Jerusalem and has repeatedly defied the conditions of his release by giving interviews to foreign journalists.

Why Did He Get in Trouble the Second Time?

According to the recent indictment, Vanunu met two Americans at a hotel in east Jerusalem in 2013, moved apartments without notifying Israeli authorities in 2014, and in 2015 told an Israeli TV anchor information related to his work at the nuclear reactor that he was forbidden from speaking about.

Channel 2 says while all the material broadcast in the interview had been approved by Israel’s military censor, the police asked for the full, unedited footage of the interview, apparently because it was suspected that Vanunu discussed matters he was barred from talking about.

However, the whistleblower feels he has paid the price for his acts, for which he does not repent.

He also does not see himself as a foreign spy and says he did what he did “because I thought it was the right of the people to know… I, Mordechai Vanunu, took the responsibility to inform the citizens of the nuclear danger… Dimona is very dangerous,” Vanunu said.

That role ended the day The Sunday Times published the story, he added: “I’m done with this story. I have no more secrets.”

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Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

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